Purpose Anchored on the broaden-and-build theory and the circumplex model, the authors develop and test a conceptual model in which satisfaction, influenced by an effective handling of communication, cooperation, conflict, and opportunism, is set as the predictor of inter-partner creativity in the relationship between hotels and their foreign travel agents under the Covid-19 pandemic. Design/methodology/approach The conceptual model was tested with data collected from 190 randomly selected hotel units located in Greece, using both online and drop-in questionnaire methods. Data were analyzed using SEM analysis. Findings Satisfaction with the working relationship was found to be enhanced by improving communication and cooperation, as well as by keeping conflict and opportunism at low levels. This was a strong predictor of inter-partner creativity, although less pronounced under high levels of relational distance and rigidity. Research limitations/implications The study should be extended to other country settings, replicated at different levels of crisis severity, and use dyadic data. Additional environmental factors could be used as boundary conditions, while our model could be expanded to include additional drivers and consequences of inter-partner creativity. Practical implications To generate inter-partner creativity, there is a need to maintain high levels of satisfaction through proper communication, enhanced cooperation, conflict minimization, and avoidance of opportunistic actions. Also, to better translate satisfaction into inter-partner creativity, interacting parties should keep distance at low levels, while at the same time demonstrate greater flexibility. Originality/value The study unveils the role of effectively managing behavioral factors in inter-firm relationships to develop creative solutions to the Covid-19 crisis challenges, an issue neglected by prior research. The study also sheds light on the contingent effects of distance and rigidity, two important factors moderating relationships under crisis. The study applies for the first time two psychological-based theories, the broaden-and-build theory and the circumplex model, to an international marketing crisis situation.